I always tell my wife that I think I was born in the wrong era. I look back to the days before technology, machines and the feeling of having to go, go, go and wish that I could go back in time. I now know that I don’t need a time machine, I just have to look back to the days of my grandparents and great grandparents, take the lessons of how they lived, and bring them forward and apply them to my life in this modern era.
My family and I love being at our new place out in the country and living a homesteading lifestyle. Being able to raise and grow our own food gives me such joy and a feeling of accomplishment. It is nice not having to worry about what in the food that my family is eating because we either raised it ourselves or bought it locally, when we can, from someone that has the same ideals as us. Working on the land is also very calming, therapeutic, stress reducing and allows me to connect with nature. Life wasn’t always like this for me.
Like many other people, I was feeling like something was wrong, like something was missing in mine and my family’s life. I was stressed, feeling like I had no control over anything and was quite unhappy, to be honest. I would get up, go work a long day, come home, shower, eat a very unhealthy supper, sit on the couch and watch TV then go to bed, just to wake up and do it all over again. On weekends I didn’t do much. I would play with Wyatt and lay around watching TV, snacking on crap food. I might go out and do the odd thing around town or get something done around the house that had been neglected for too long but that was about it. I was just drained entirely and had no energy, ambition or desire to do anything else.
Sadly, this is the way most people’s lives are designed now-a-days. If you are unhappy with the way your life is, it’s fairly easy to get a prescription for medication to help “fix” the issue, so you can continue on in the ever ending cycle that slowly but inevitably kills you, probably 20 years too early. The even sadder part is we pay for this to happen, with money and our energy, leaving very little left over for ourselves and our families. We spend our very little time doing things that are unfulfilling, like keeping our houses and yards perfectly clean and landscaped so it looks good to other people, even if we are fine with a bit of a mess. Houses are more like displays or museums, cold and unwelcoming with yards looking all the same, planted grass, maybe an ornamental tree or two and some landscape rocks. Most people don’t even know their neighbors. They might know some of their names, say hello or even have a conversation about the weather but that’s about it. If a neighbor is going through a hard time with something, like the loss of a job, the other people on the block usually don’t have a clue that there is even anything wrong. People generally keep to themselves, try to do everything on their own, and don’t ask for help for the most part. This only makes us more stressed and feel like we have even less control over our lives.
I believe that more people should take lessons from the homesteaders of the past. They were very tough people, they had to be, to carve a living out from the land, as they didn’t have the resources or technology that we do today but they didn’t do it on their own. They knew their neighbors that lived in all directions for miles around and they helped each other out with things like harvesting crops and gardens, preserving food, butchering animals or repairing equipment and machinery. People didn’t try and do everything on their own because they knew it was impossible. They would share their knowledge, skills or excess food with each other so no one would have to do it on their own. If a neighbor became ill or was injured the other neighbors would split up the chores amongst themselves to help out and they didn’t expect anything in return. There was a real sense of community and no one had to worry or stress about getting by, getting things done or taking care of their family’s needs, they knew that they could rely on their neighbors because they weren’t just the people that lived around them, they were their friends and they treated each other like family.
You don’t have to move out to the country to live a healthy, rich, fulfilling homesteading life. You just need to take those methods and morals our grandparents lived by and apply them to your live. Get out and talk to your neighbors, engage with them, find out who they are. Odds are you will find that, for the most part, they are good people just like you who want to help, have a stronger sense of community and have more control over their own lives. Lead by example, maybe find a family in the neighborhood that is going through a tough time, like the loss of a job and talk with the other neighbors to see what they could help out with. Maybe one neighbor grows and cans fruits or vegetables that they could give to help out, another might have a big garden with excess produce that they could give. Maybe someone is a great cook or baker that could make meals for the family or, maybe someone that lives just a few houses down has an opening where they work and could get them a job to get them back on their feet, you could even babysit while they went for the interview.
Things like block party potlucks, BBQ’s, book clubs, craft nights, seed sharing days, farmer’s markets or gardening groups are some good ways to get to know your neighbors, start learning about them and learning from them. You could want to learn how to garden but don’t know where to start and meet someone that lives just down the street who is an old green thumb with a wealth of knowledge that is just dying to share with others. Before you know it, you and many of your neighbors could all be transforming those nicely landscaped yards into beautiful gardens full of vegetables that could feed the entire neighborhood with healthy, nutritious, real food.
You can also help out by getting money back into the community by shopping and investing locally within the community instead of going to huge box stores that don’t care about you or your neighbors. Maybe you need your lawnmower or another machine repaired, maybe you want a nice handcrafted piece of furniture or décor that is built to last, not like most of the garbage sold in stores these days. Maybe you don’t want to garden or raise your own food but want to feed your family with healthy, GMO, pesticide and herbicide free food. By talking and creating friendships with your neighbors you might find most everything you need right out your front door and odds are that you will have something to offer them as well, whether it be a skill or a product that they have been looking for. It might even give you that boost to finally start your own business and take even more control of your life letting you live the way you’ve always wanted, doing something you love and being happy and free.
So don’t just say hello or talk about the weather the next time you see a neighbor, take a page from your grandparents’ book, invite them into your home and your life and create new friendships and a better life for you and your community.